updated on 28 April 2020
Online learning is increasingly vital for preparing future lawyers for the reality of working in a law firm or business, as well as an effective way to gain qualifications. In partnership with The University of Law, LawCareers.Net explains what the current online learning environment has to offer.
Classroom and online learning used to offer very different experiences but advances in technology mean they are more and more integrated. The best online courses bring not just the learning materials, but the whole university to the student, from personal tutor to counselling service.
The move online in higher education has made gaining the qualifications needed for a career in law more accessible than ever. It has also provided students with the right environment to develop key skills needed for today’s tech-driven legal workplaces. “Learning has caught up with the way that organisations now operate,” says Richard Haggett, National Programme Director for Online Law Programmes at The University of Law. “That is a key part of what we do as an institution that prepares people for careers in law and business. Our online tools ensure that how you learn also develops the practical skills needed in the modern working environment.”
Read on for answers to key questions about studying online and more information about the online pathways into the legal profession.
What does learning online offer future lawyers?
Quality online learning gives students the flexibility to study wherever they need to, saving on travel and accommodation costs while accessing all the benefits of the university. “Courses are structured so there are deadlines to hit, but students have the flexibility to plan their online learning around other commitments to meet those deadlines,” explains Richard. “And although you are studying online, you have the full support facilities of the university available to you, such as personal tuition, library access, employability advice and counselling services. Studying online is not studying alone anymore – the whole university comes to you and is easy to access on the online platform.”
Is there quality teaching and interaction?
Top academic results are important in the competitive process of securing a training contract or pupillage, so regular tutor support and feedback are essential to help you gain the best possible marks. Students also need to be able to work together and learn from each other.
The University of Law’s online learning platform provides multiple ways for students and tutors to interact, while also enabling group work and student-to-student support. “With the explosion of social media and a high level of awareness among students of the power of social tools, the perception that online learning is ‘distance learning’ is eroding,” Richard observes. “A lot of work has gone into building the community aspect of studying, with students having a key role in driving the adoption of new ways of working together.”
Online learning also accommodates different learning styles. “The emphasis is on the benefit of the learner without having to rely solely on the performance of the teacher,” continues Richard. “We have all had good and bad experiences in the classroom, where your friend studying the same subject in another class can have a totally different learning experience to your own depending on the teacher’s personality or presentation.
“Online learning provides a variety of tools and exercises to make your studying effective, whereas in a classroom environment you can be limited to the teacher’s chosen style.”
What courses are available?
All the qualifications needed for a career in the legal profession are available to study online.
Online law degree
At undergraduate level you can study for an online qualifying law degree, completing which passes the academic stage of training to become a solicitor or barrister. The University of Law’s Online LLB focuses on practical legal skills and employability, and provides both one-to-one tutor and peer contact. It is also the foundation for a master’s qualification.
The highly flexible degree can be studied over three years, four years, four-and-a-half years or six years.
If you studied a non-law subject at undergraduate level, you can convert to law through the GDL and MA Law Online. This conversion course allows non-law graduates to complete the academic stage of training to become a solicitor or barrister. The programme focuses on practical legal skills through online workshops and problem-based learning, as well as the opportunity to undertake an independent research project and get involved in pro bono activities.
The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the vocational stage of training to become a solicitor. The University of Law’s LPC Online enables students to build a portfolio of work to support their applications for training contracts and other legal roles. “We are refreshing our LPC online learning environment for the 2020-21 academic year, embedding underlying professional skills development into how you learn with more live access tools and community-built exercises,” explains Richard.
Is online learning effective preparation for life as a lawyer?
Whether you study online or on campus, you complete the same coursework and assessments, and gain exactly the same qualification. And in addition to rigour, online study offers wider scope to gain the professional skills that law firms’ recruiters are looking for. “Our courses are designed not just to help you pass the assessments and gain the necessary qualifications – they are designed to get you fit for legal practice,” says Richard. “The way that law firms and businesses worldwide operate across different teams and offices is replicated in how you study.”
With the coronavirus pandemic causing profound changes in how society functions, the rise of online learning looks set to accelerate, as for all thought now also turns to where we work and study. Fortunately, both lawyers working remotely and those studying to commence their own legal careers have the right tools for success.
Josh Richman is the senior editor of LawCareers.Net.